Payton joins in All-Star game
Georgiana alumnus Jacquez Payton got to lace up and hit the gridiron one final time before joining Jacksonville State as a participant of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) North-South All-Star game.
And though the game, held on July 21, looms dangerously close to the start of fall practice, Payton said that he and his South teammates—many of whom are also destined for collegiate careers— got plenty of time to prepare.
From Sunday to Wednesday, we had two-a-days,” Payton said.
“We would practice from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. and then come right back in the evening and practice from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. So we got a lot of practice in and great preparation. I really enjoyed it.”
Due to inclement weather, both the North and South All-Star squads spent far more time preparing for the game than they did actually participating in it.
Following a 14-yard run from the North’s David Mitchell and a 51-yard touchdown pass from Gardendale’s Zach Cupps, the North lead the South 14-0 out of the gate.
But lightning ended the game with 8:16 remaining in the second quarter, cutting the all-star contest and the South’s chances of redemption short.
But from the perspective of Payton, the sole Class 1A representative on the South’s team, the experience proved invaluable.
“I came in there with a chip on my shoulders because I was the only player from Class 1A football there, so I had the mindset that I had to come in with my dog mentality and show all of those guys that I can play with anybody,” Payton said.
He added that the experience was especially important for his upcoming season at Jacksonville State University, where talented players from larger schools would be the norm rather than the exception.
“In Class 1A football, you don’t get a chance to compete with Class 4A through Class 7A guys. Those guys that I was competing with were just as good as me, but I felt like I was a little better because I believed in myself,” Payton said.
“So it was good practice.”
Now that the short but sweet affair at Cramton Bowl has come to a close, Payton has refocused his efforts on the challenging upcoming experience as a member of the Jacksonville State University Gamecocks.
And though he’s become intimately familiar with the program and staff, the underdog mentality he cultivated as a Georgiana Panther won’t be going anywhere.
“I’m pumped up for it… that’s all I’ve been thinking about,” Payton said.
“And I most definitely will have a chip on my shoulder there because I feel like some people doubted me, and said that I wouldn’t make it. I’m going to go there and work my tail off to be the best student-athlete I can be.
“All it takes is one person to believe in you, and Coach Powell believes in me, so there’s no doubt in my mind that I can do it.”